While it creates a distinction between personal data, and sensitive personal data,the exemptions under Data Protection Bill include matters of security of state, for prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of contraventions of law, processing for purposes of legal proceeding, research, archiving, or statistical purposes, personal or domestic purposes, journalistic purposes, or manual processing by small entities.
Aadhaar data-linked sensitive private information on citizens that Central and State governments, and by default, the political parties in power, have access to could easily be used to create caste and religion based voter maps. Such data would be invaluable to a Delimitation Committee mandated with the task of redrawing the boundaries of constituencies, and could well empower such a Committee with the potential to influence the delimitation process in a manner that could influence the outcome of an election in favour of a particular political party/group, thereby unethically influencing the electoral system and undermining democracy.
From its premature Cabinet clearance without any enforceable data protection framework in place, to its muddled approach to consent, in-built technologies of coercion leading to profiling and possible criminalisation of vulnerable groups, invasive information collection methods and mythicisation of the “infallibility” of the DNA technology — the Bill is a confused disarray of State arrogance fused with misplaced reliance on technology that’s still too nebulous for effective and wide-scale use
Provisions that permit personal data processing without express consent are clearly overbroad in comparison to comparable frameworks such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) brought forth by the European Union (EU). The non requirement of necessity and proportionality with respect to personal data processing by the State prima facie seems regressive and violative of the tests laid down by the Puttaswamy verdict.
As the country makes progress at the cost of pushing the most vulnerable to the margins, the schemes like NFSA, MGNREGA have become the last thread for the survival of the poor. 7 out of the 12 starvation deaths in Jharkhand documented by the Right to Food Campaign were directly related to the problems with Aadhaar linking. Starvation deaths are not an aberration but an extreme manifestation of exclusions built into the system.
The proposed amendment in the RTI Act, 2005 takes away the independence of Information Commissions that have been conferred with the adjudicatory power to decide the appeals and complaints arise out of violation of the RTI Act and denial of the information, whatever may be the case.
The SMCH can reasonably be construed to be a surveillance mechanism encompassing the entire digital space, laying the groundwork for an information system where it only flows from a Statist source, with all dissenters silenced into fear of State sanction.
The petition contends that the SMCH aims at creating an advanced surveillance infrastructure via which the Government could “monitor” and “cut to size” all individuals who critique the government via social media, rather than its stated objective of being an analytical tool aiding the Ministry to gauge the effectiveness of its social media campaigns.
The judgment in the second longest hearing in the history of the Supreme Court will be an indicator of the apex court’s understanding in matters of data protection and security, while hopefully making a case for prudence in assimilating technology with governance, without altering the citizen-State relationship.